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Virtual Reality and the spaces we share

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

VR experience - client meetingVirtual reality is a powerful tool for designers. While still in the early stages of development in architecture, with this tool, we can offer our clients a familiar language for understanding design, beyond the interpretation of 2D drawings or even 3D models. Sharing this type of experience eliminates the need to explain what a space is or how it functions. It allows us to be a fly on the wall, and gives us greater insight into how people will intuitively perceive and navigate through spaces.

Using virtual reality has an aspect of vulnerability for a designer: it means giving up the control a diagram or rendering has to tell the story you want to tell. At the same time, sharing the whole story by using virtual space forges an inherent sense of mutual trust. It allows you to communicate faster and more fully. Instead of spending precious minutes explaining or interpreting the design, VR quickly facilitates meaningful conversations about the space itself.

Shepley Bulfinch has been an early adopter – and adapter – of the technology, building and refining our in-house capacity, rolling it out in our project work, and now sharing it with selected healthcare and education clients, with much success.

We recently used VR as a part of a regularly scheduled design meeting with a major client. The meetings are intense, with lots of information to go through in a limited span of time. Knowing that, we wanted to tap into the potential for virtual reality to give users an intuitive step into the design, to understand the scale of the space and sense of movement around and through it.

At our inaugural meeting, the decision makers stepped seamlessly into the virtual environment to explore the space we had created for them, showing us that the learning curve can be surprisingly short. We watched them make the leap from novelty technology to a real design tool. And because we can see what they are seeing, we could walk through the space with them and talk about the qualities and layout of a space we were inhabiting together.

- Angeline Focht

Angeline Focht is a member of Shepley Bulfinch’s architectural staff, with a particular focus in research and development of new technologies at the firm. She co-chairs Shepley Bulfinch’s Revit User Group and is an active contributor in Boston’s AEC VR community.

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